Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, artist, and an Emmy-nominated and multiple Webby-winning producer with more than twenty-five years of experience in the arts & social justice.

Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, artist, and an Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning producer with more than twenty years of experience in the arts and social justice.


Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Long Beach, CA, Selvaratnam is based in New York City and Portland, Oregon. With the artist Laurie Anderson and the producer Laura Michalchyshyn, she is a cofounder of The Federation: a coalition of artists, organizations, and allies committed to keeping cultural borders open and showing how art unites us. She is also a board member and advisor of For Freedoms, co-founded by Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas, to catalyze public discourse and civic engagement through the arts. Most recently, she produced for The Vision & Justice Project (founded by Professor Sarah Lewis); Glamour Women of the Year; The Shed multi-arts center; and UNSTOPPABLE ART/Planned Parenthood. Since 2007, she has been a producer for Aubin Pictures (founded by Catherine Gund). For nine years, she was the Communications and Special Projects Officer for the Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation, based in Miami, FL.

Selvaratnam’s career in the arts and social justice began with her work assisting Anna Deavere Smith on the development of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 about the human toll of the L.A. riots, and with her position as a youth organizer on the steering committee of the NGO Forum/Fourth World Conference on Women in China in 1995. In addition, she was an organizer and researcher for the World Health Organization’s Kobe Conference on Women and Tobacco in 1999.  

She is the author of THE BIG LIE: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock and the forthcoming Assume Nothing: A Memoir of Intimate Violence. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, GlamourCNN, McSweeney’s, Artsy, Art Basel Magazine, and more. In her various roles, she has been quoted in publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, CNN, NBC NewsHyperallergic, Slate, artnet, ARTNews, the Art Newspaper, Artforum, Cosmo, Redbook, Metro, Village Voice, New York, Corriere della Serra, Die Zeit, and the Globe and Mail. She has been a featured guest on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, NPR, WNYC, KCRW, Sirius XM, and CBS Radio News.

Selvaratnam has participated in panels and conferences around the world, including various United Nations and World Health Organization events as well as the Aspen Ideas Festival, New York Film Festival, Brooklyn Book Festival, and Skoll World Forum. She has spoken on a variety of subjects, including the rights and safety of women and children, and the interplay of art and democracy. She has also conducted workshops with students of all ages, from elementary school through graduate school. She has been a fellow at Yaddo and Blue Mountain Center, and has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Ettinger Foundation, and the MAP Fund.

Selvaratnam's producing range includes films, branded content, live events, and exhibitions. She has produced films by Gabri Christa, Chiara Clemente, Lisa Cortés, Liz Garbus, Catherine Gund, Le Tigre and Laura Parnes, Tiffany Shlain, Mickalene Thomas, Lucy Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jed Weintrob, among others. Her films have played on HBO, IFC, PBS, Starz, and the Sundance Channel; and have premiered at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, and SXSW. Selvaratnam has worked on projects at the Guggenheim Museum, Kennedy Center, The Kitchen,Performance Space New York, and the Park Avenue Armory.

As a performer, Selvaratnam has toured around the world with companies including The Wooster Group and The Builders Association; and been a guest actor at New Dramatists, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Voice & Vision Theater, and the Institute on Arts and Civic Dialogue. She has played on stages at prestigious venues around the world, such as New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music and Lincoln Center, London’s Barbican Theatre, and Singapore’s Victoria Theatre. 

She has served on the boards of the Third Wave Fund, For Freedoms, Boom Arts, The Wooster Group, and Groundswell Community Mural Project; and is an advisor to The DO School, a Germany-based and internationally focused creative educational organization that offers learning experiences to generate global impact.

She received her graduate and undergraduate degrees in Chinese language and legal history from Harvard University. Her Masters thesis on women’s organizations in post-Tiananmen China was published in the Journal of Law and Politics.

Tanya Selvaratnam in New York, on October 2, 2018.
Tanya Selvaratnam in New York, on October 2, 2018.



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Photographs by Thomas Dozol and Béatrice de Géa